Interview

Clive Downie on DeNA's goal to be the most successful entertainment company in the world

Clive Downie on DeNA's goal to be the most successful entertainment company in the world
There's plenty of research that says big money corporate acquisitions are seldom successful in the long term.

On that basis, the $303 million DeNA spent acquiring ngmoco in October 2010 was ambitious, and that's even before you consider the culture clash between a multi-billion dollar Japanese feature phone social gaming network and a small smartphone-focused Bay Area game start-up.

Still, despite the ink split in consideration since, it's clear the merger between the disparate outfits has been successfully cemented, both operationally and in terms of creative output.

While the Japanese-sourced Rage of Bahamut was DeNA's big hit in 2012, the ngmoco-developed RPG Blood Brothers also performed well, and future titles such as The Drowning are highly anticipated in 2013.

Half the globe

This was underlined with DeNA's recent global rebranding, which sees ngmoco head honcho Clive Downie operating under the title of CEO, DeNA West.

Previously a veep of marketing at EA, Downie wasn't an ngmoco founder, joining at the start of 2010 to run its first party studio operations.

He gained the top job when previous CEO Neil Young left in October 2012.

Downie now heads an organisation which includes DeNA's internal development teams in San Francisco and Mountain View in the US, Almere in the Netherlands, Stockholm, Sweden, and Santiago, Chile.



The Drowning from DeNA's Stockholm studio is due soon

He's also responsible for the games published outside of Asia on DeNA's social gaming platform Mobage.

Not that 'platform' is a term Downie much cares for.

"Mobage is a service," he argues. "A service has value. Platform is dull."

What competition?

Of course, whatever terminology you're using, what really matters are the games.

"Content is king. We want to make games that are excellent," Downie argues.

"We have very rigorous processes about what will be successful and we kill a lot of projects, because our most precious resource is our people and their time."

And, in another context, time is the key concept our conversation revolves around

When discussing the growth of competition in the mobile free-to-play market - the likes of Kabam, Zynga, EA Mobile, King etc - Downie is nonplussed.

"The only people who can damage our chances are us," he states. "We're our number one catalyst for failure."

It's about time

His argument is the games DeNA makes and publishes on Mobage aren't really competing with games from EA or Kabam, but with other leisure activities - watching TV, using social media, sports, socialising.

"For us to be successful, we have to break into people's free time," he says.

"We actively think about how to reach the most consumers and gain the most time we can. We're looking to get 50 minutes of your time every day."

This approach goes somewhat against the current fashion, as demonstrated in games such as CSR Racing for building very short gameplay loops, which force players to leave the game or spend money to buy the resources required to play longer.

"The mark of a good free-to-play game is you don't have to pay to play. It's about engagement," Downie replies, thoughtfully.

"Three years ago we might have thought differently, but I think we're ahead of anyone in mobile games in terms of what we've learned and using it to make compelling content.

"I want us to be the most successful entertainment company in the world."

You can see a short video interview with Clive, below.


editor-at-large

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.

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